Dear PoPville – What Are Effective Responses to a Litterer?

Photo by PoPville flickr user Mr. T in DC

Dear PoPville,

In light of the recent assault at 14th and W Streets by a man who had been asked to pick up his litter, I suggest you open a thread on how to address someone who has thrown trash on the ground. I simply say, “Hey, I respect you and wouldn’t throw my trash in front of where you live. Would you mind returning the same respect to me, and put that in a garbage can?” Maybe I’ve just been lucky, but this line has worked on each of three occasions when I’ve used it. It prevents what is a simple appeal to civic duty from sounding like a command.

149 Comment

  • Your mother doesn’t work the streets. Clean up after yourself.

    • -1,000

      WORST.ADVICE.EVER on this blog, word to O-Dog. *Cues up opening scene of Menace II Society* 1:48 mark

      Seriously though, I get it but with all the reports of things happening on this site, this would be the dumbest thing to say. You are just asking for trouble. Leave people’s mothers out of it.

      • then stay silent if you are scared to say what you think

        • It is one thing to say what you think. It is a whole other thing to say what you think and not expect retaliation.

          Hey if you are cool with risking whatever because you think you are just using words then go ahead and be my guest. I just know that you best be ready, esp when it comes to bringing up someones mother. You never know what the other person is going to hear or what they are capable of doing.

      • I agree that it’s useless to bring up the mothers, but from a different angle. Mine is this: if the mothers weren’t swine themselves they wouldn’t raise pigs who litter. One had just as well invoke their fathers…

  • What kind of sense does it make to tell someone you respect them after they just threw trash in front of your yard?

    I see your main point though, something’s gotta give in this city. How do you get through to the kind of person that would smash your head for asking you to correct something that they did wrong such as littering? If you solve that problem you solve America’s problem.

    May the force be with you

  • A friend of mine used to pick up the litter, run after the person, say “you dropped this”, and give it back to them. It produced some priceless reactions, and was actually quite effective.

    • Perfect!

    • Love this!

    • I do something similar but don’t actually pick up the trash. I’ll say “you dropped something” with an “it must be valuable so you’ll want to pick it up” tone. Works about half the time.

      • I’ve seen this in action before and it works.

      • Ha! Only people I have seen it work for are the shoe shine guys on the street. They have been using that one forever.

        Shoe shine guy: Dropped something.

        Random guy: *Turns to look for it*

        Shoe shine guy: Dropped your shine.

        Straight up DC.

        • lol, is “dropped your shine” seriously what they say? I’ve never actually looked down so I have never heard the second half of the hook.

          • Yup, they got me when I first came to Howard back in ’95. I thought it was so funny and knew I was in “The Big City” (coming from Hampton, VA) at that point. I never forgot it, part of my DC memories. Now when they say it, I just respond with the rest of it and they usually get a laugh out of it.

        • YES! The guy down by Metro center (12th St exit) , the guy at 15th & NY Ave and the guy at 15th & K used to get me with this one all the time. And I loved it too, so of course, they got my business.

      • I do that, too! Sometimes people give me nasty looks, but usually, they get really embarrassed. AS WELL THEY SHOULD.

    • If only this response would work with cigarette butts….

      • As a smoker, I actually agree 100% with this. I resent those who refuse to use receptacles or to take a few seconds to fully extinguish the flame and throw their butts in the trash. I realize smoking isn’t exactly environmentally friendly but smokers don’t have to make it worse by littering all over the damn place. Not OK.

        Anticipatory Note: For those who would suggest that throwing butts in the trash may cause a fire, please take note of my ‘fully extinguish the flame’ criteria.

    • That’s what I always do and it works like a charm. Fun to see them get beet red.

      • I do the same thing and it works 20% of the time. It’s probably the safest response since its not commanding the other person to do anything, gets their attention and hopefully causes them to think a second time about what they did.
        Just avoid the snarky/condescending attitude and you are probably pretty safe.

      • Except when they answer “No, I didn’t”, even though they clearly DID drop something. Then you have to decide whether or not you actually want to get into an argument with the person. (Usually not a good idea of they are blatantly lying.)

  • I’m totally glad that has worked successfully for you but, and especially in light of the not good response of 14th and W, I’m not sure there is a good or appropriate response. Essentially, aren’t you telling someone else how to live and minding their business (even if you’re phrasing it in the form of a question)? This isn’t to be rude to the OP because it’s a frustrating problem but I’m not sure minding other people’s business is the way to go.

    • It ceases to be the other person’s business when he throws garbage on public property.

    • I wouldn’t say that asking someone to follow the law, that affects you directly, is telling someone how to live or minding their business. If it’s in your lawn particularly, that’s actually your business. Obviously it’s less severe and less enforceable, but would you say the same thing for a greater crime- even a misdemeanor like small-time shoplifting?

    • Then the litterer shouldn’t have made it everyone’s business by littering.

  • I would not say anything. I would pick up the litter and put it in a trash receptacle. If it was a repeat offender, I might collect a lot of their littered trash, and place it on their doorstep.

    • “I might collect a lot of their littered trash, and place it on their doorstep”

      Yeah because being passive aggressive usually yields good results

      • What results?

        Do you want the litter picked up? Pick it up.
        Do you want to educate another person? People already know littering is illegal.
        Do you want to change their behavior? Good luck with that.

        Why do I put it on their doorstep? So they have to move it. Am I doing it to change their behavior? No, I am doing it to make myself feel better.
        Is it passive aggressive? No, because I am not attempting to change them, I am doing it for my pleasure alone.

        Passive aggresive would be the “Oh I thknk you dropped something…” method: you know they dropped something, you know they did it on purpose, you are trying to shame them into changing. And I am not opposed to others using this method. I will not.

        • Exactly! We should be friends.

        • Uh, it’s passive aggressive because it’s indirectly confrontational. It’s also trespassing. It’s also littering. And when the trash blows of their doorstep and onto someone else’s, that’s a lot of good you’ve done.

          If you really want to make yourself feel better, I’d hope you’d be able to do it by disposing of the trash (and maybe a few other pieces of litter while you’re at it) and knowing you did a good deed. Instead I guess you get pleasure from being vindictive and catty.

          • I throw my neighbors trash right back into their yard. Typically it results in them picking it up and putting it in their garbage can because they KNOW they were the ones who threw the empty patron bottle and chicken wing box on the sidewalk, and at this point putting it in the garbage takes as much effort as walking it back out to the sidewalk. occasionally it sits in their yard for weeks, or blows away. But it makes me happy to put their filth back in their yard.

          • @ Anonymous at 4:25, I would encourage you to next time just throw the trash away and feel good about having set a good example and helped beautify the neighborhood.

          • I said bert, that I MIGHT do that for a repeat offender. I haven’t done it in over a decade, but yes, back in the 90’s, I and other neighbors did this to one house on our block.

            It was not passive aggressive. It was pure aggressive. They knew whic neighbors were doing this, they saw us picking it up and bagging it before the bag was placed on their stoop.

            being catty is not always a bad thing. Neither is shame of the “I think you dropped something” variety.

            Vindictive? Hardly. I returned to them that which was theirs. Just being neighborly.

    • I totally agree. If you care enough to scold another person (even if they deserve it) then you care enough to pick it up yourself.

  • If someone littered, they knew they weren’t supposed to and they’re an ass. I’d prefer to just avoid the hassle of dealing with someone like that and I’d pick it up and put it in the trash myself. But I’m a cynic when it comes to people 🙂

    • Even the comments here show that some people are unaware that littering is illegal, so let’s not assume that every person who litters is an ass. Instead, assume that a litterer is a law-abiding citizen and approach him or her respectfully. If the person really is an ass, he or she is likely to respond better to a civil comment.

      • Regardless of the legality, who knowingly drops garbage on the ground and really thinks it’s okay? An ass. Sheesh.

      • There’s more than one way to be an ass. One fool out of ten might not know that littering is illegal, but everyone knows that it makes the community look gross and is an expression of lack of care.

        Not caring about your community = you’re an ass.

        • I understand you, but I’m just responding to the issue raised by the OP, which is how to effectively address the problem. I don’t really care about the issue of when it is fair to condemn someone as an ass.

  • Pretty sure you shouldn’t confront a litterer, or anyone for that matter, unless you are absolutely sure you can kick their ass.

    I doubt the same person will litter in front of your building everyday, so the best that happens is that you make somebody else street cleaner. Worst case is you get put in the hospital.

    • Agreed about the ass kicking part. I was walking behind three teenage girls on 14th St a couple of weeks ago when one of them took her jamba juice or whatever and just threw it on the ground (even though there was a trash can 20 yards in front of her). I picked it up and threw it in the trash can rather than confront, which I figured would most likely result in either a verbal or physical assault. Even if you can take them all on, street brawling with three chicks just doesn’t look good.

    • are we scared of litterers now??? seriously people. PICK UP THE TRASH or let your neighborhood cleaners do it… you know the ones employed by the city. CHOOSE YOUR BATTLES PEOPLE… preach to those who won’t care or just MOVE ON….

      • There are no “neighborhood cleaners” employed by the city (except the ones for certain main streets — the thing there was a press release about the other day).

        On most residential streets, there’s once-a-week street sweeping, and that’s it. There isn’t anyone employed by the city to pick litter up from the sidewalk area.

  • Tell the litterer, “I feel sorry for your mother” and see what happens next.

    • If we’re going to stick with the Menace II Society references, you might consider offering them a cheeseburger in exchange for not littering. And if that fails…

  • The best response is to pick up the litter that was left, dispose of it yourself, and keep your mouth shut.

    • I completely agree with this. In a large city like DC, you really have to pick your battles with people. I don’t think there’s any appropriate or constructive way of confronting a stranger about litter that doesn’t come across as somewhat smug.

      Getting people to change their behaviors is hard. Don’t like litter? Pick it up. Raise awareness by organizing or volunteering for a trash pick up day in your neighborhood or park. And be example for others by always placing your trash and recycling in the appropriate bins. Tell you friends to do the same. But don’t personally confront someone you don’t know and try to teach them a lesson.

      • -1

        If no one every said anything to people who litter, none of the litterers would likely change.

        If everyone comments in the right way, then some litters would likely stop.

        • You obviously aren’t familiar with urban culture. Lecturing people generally doesn’t go over well. 9 out of 10 times they might just call you a name, but about 10 percent of the time somebody will challenge you or just outright beat your ass.

          When I was in high school, I resented having to attend inner city schools. now that I’m a city resident myself, I’m glad I had that opportunity because it made me street smart. I had classmates get murdered over an ounce of weed, and people put in the hospital for looking at a person the wrong way. Trust me, some people you absolutely do not want to fuck with. A good way to meet that type of person is to call them out for littering. Trust me.

          I read about the assaults on this blog so often and think, WTF was the victim thinking?

          • Read what he wrote above. When he suggested that everyone “comment” to people who litter “in the right way,” it’s pretty clear that he meant the opposite of “lecturing” or “fucking with” them. The OP and a few others in this thread have provided good ideas for things to say that are reasonable and reasonably safe.

            I never fail to say something to a person who has thrown trash on the ground. I act nice not because I’m afraid of getting hurt, but because that offers the best chance of changing behavior. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but I’ve never been fearful. It’s a miniscule risk that we all need to take in order to make the city better.

          • What is the “right” way to tell someone to do something. Your “right” way may be very wrong to someone who wants to hear it as the “wrong” way.

          • Maybe you don’t “tell” them “to do” anything at all. The line that many say has worked is, “Hey, you dropped this.” That’s not telling the litterer to do anything. It simply calls attention to the person’s littering in a way that presumes, if only superficially, that the person did not do it on purpose. It works because it gives the person a chance to act differently without losing face.

            When we see someone display anti-social behavior, we have a natural tendency to assume the person has fully considered the behavior, and is of one mind about acting that way. Many here are ready assume the person will attack us if we make a comment! Of course, there are such people, as some of the stories here illustrate. But if one considers the positive responses to the OP’s comments — and others like it, which appeal to the ethical person within — then one has to recognize that many people who act badly will respond favorably to gentle, respectful social pressures.

        • I don’t believe that this is true.

          If people see that a street is clean, they will not litter. If people see that a street is dirty, they will not feel bad about making it dirtier. If you maintain a little stretch of your street and pick up litter as you walk up and down, people will notice and stop littering. I have seen this work.

          • “If people see that a street is clean, they will not litter.”

            This is not precisely true. Although the “broken windows” theory definitely applies here — if a street already has litter on it, people are even more likely to litter — a litter-free street doesn’t necessarily stay litter-free.

            I pick up litter on my block once or twice a week. I often see new litter within hours.

            I keep up with the litter-picking, because it’s better to have some cleanliness than none at all, and because things would surely be worse if I didn’t. (I’m hoping it will also help motivate my neighbors to pick up litter in front of their houses, even if they don’t bother with litter in front of other people’s houses.)

            But it’s pretty disheartening when I see litter and know that it’s brand-new.

      • A solid +1 to both posters above. Finally, the voice of good judgement and reason.

        • It looks like I’m agreeing with both Anonymous repliers. I was agreeing with Marcus Aurelius and Anonymous 3:31.

  • Put trash bags on your fence. I jest but people do it all the time around the way. It really is sad because I see public trash cans in other neighborhoods but some of us in currently or soon to be gentrified neighborhoods can’t get a damn trash receptacle anywhere.

    What really sucks is that our neighboor never repaired his fence from when it came down and last summer decided to take it all down so now the trash always blows across his yard into our yard. Of course it stays there because our fence stops it from going farther. Every morning it is something new.

    • Unfortunately, I’ve watched people unwrap that cheeseburger and throw the trash on the ground when a trash can was no less than 8 steps away.

      • Oh no doubt, we have all seen it. Or eat the chicken wings, throw the bones on the ground, finish with the container and then throw that on the ground. And then there is the try to shoot it in the trash, miss and leave it there all over the place.

    • Imagine my disappointment when the public can on the 5500 block of Illinois was _removed_ recently! It was always overflowing with household trash so maybe that’s why they took it (there are also some on Georgia a few steps away), but man it felt like a big step backwards.

      • Maybe ask your councilmember if DPW can put it back?

        • Good suggestion. I was thinking of contacting DPW on Twitter since that seems to be a good way of contacting agencies directly these days. I’d at least be interested to hear the explanation.

          • When the Georgia Ave revamp was finally complete, the city moved all of the trash cans to street corners, but always on the cross street side of a corner and not the GA ave side. So, people walking down GA ave would have to turn down a side-street slightly to throw something away. In doing so they also ended up moving the trash cans farther away from almost all of the bus stops-where people obviously stand and eat/drink/smoke while they wait an eternity for the bus. Since then, I’ve seen a HUGE increase in the amount of trash I have on our stone wall that runs along Georgia. I’ve considered posting signs or chaining a trash can to my fence it’s so much worse. The bottles of urine are especially nice litter…

  • I agree with those that say not to say anything. We don’t live in a sunshine world people. You never know how someone is going to react to a request for them to pick up after themselves.

    Does it suck that we can’t even ask people not to litter directly in DC without the fear of losing our lives? Yes. But I’d rather take 3 seconds out of my day and pick it up myself then risk being beaten to death and or stabbed/shot.

  • The handful of times I’ve done it, I’ve said “Excuse me, you dropped this!” and returned it as though it was an item of value.

    One time in another city, though, I was locking my bike and saw a woman in a parked van consume a candy bar, roll down her window, and throw the wrapper out the window onto the sidewalk adjacent to a trash bin. I stared at her and pointed to the wrapper, then to the bin and shrugged a “WTF?” shrug. She rolled down her window and disgustedly screamed “F**K OFF!” at me as though I was in the wrong. Later I recognized her as one of the vendors at the farmer’s market, where her pleasant demeanor belied her hulk-like rage issues.

    So, the lesson is, you can try to shame people into picking up after themselves, but be prepared for merciless ridicule (at a minimum). If they are a-hole enough to drop trash on public property or someone else’s private property, they are probably going to be an a-hole about picking it up or your trying to shame them.

  • Its funny, I am have a graduate degree and have traveled the world, but this is something I honestly can’t figure out. I have seen it elsewhere but rarely, in DC it seems to be the status quo.

    What makes a person who does not care about themselves and is ok with that? Why would you not want to have the best life you can? Why would you not care that you throw trash on the street, or crap in an alley, or steal somebody’s phone or beat an innocent person just for fun? Some people say culture. What kind of culture is that a productive way of life and why in this country is that culture so much a part of the fabric of specific groups? Some say education but why is that? Every person in this city has the option for a free education. You can read a book and learn regardless of what others are doing around you. Why don’t people want better when there is every opportunity in this city to have it with very little effort. I would like to see a study done. Take the effort that is put into helping lower income people in this city and transfer that to a small town in south west Virginia and see what the outcome is. Provide them with low income housing, free transportation, free education and scholarships to colleges they can walk to, free income and food support while they are in school. I wonder if it would turn out differently.

    • Kayne West would like a word with you.

    • I don’t think it’s just DC…I’ve seen similar litteritude in Philly and B-more, and in my hometown in Texas. I get the feeling it’s people who just do not care. It’s the same attitude that accompanies people who are obnoxiously loud on the metro or talk at full volume during movies. They aren’t really thinking about your experience, just their own.

    • LOL. what does having a graduate degree have to do with anything?

  • One I’ve used a couple times: “Excuse me, there’s a trash can right there…(while pointing a nearby trash can)…” But, admittedly, the whole 14th and W thing will make me think twice now.

  • Some people grow up thinking that whether they put trash in a garbage can or cast it on the sidewalk is a matter of individual choice about which strangers have no say. Such people aren’t necessarily anti-social; they just haven’t considered littering to be in the category of anti-social things.

    Many of the people who litter adapt as well as the rest of us to the expectations of people around them. But to someone who is accustomed to littering, an angry or commanding response looks aggressive and unjustified.

    Make a comment about littering every time you see it, but if your goal is to change behavior, then take care to make it in a non-alienating way.

    • This is so true. I have to say: I was “raised right” and had a totally upper middle class upbringing. BUT, I was raised in a community that though nothing of littering. My mom (an educated upper middle class woman) used to empty crap from her car onto the street on the regular. They didn’t see it as anti-social or odd, it was just how it was. Some people aren’t that concerned with the environment and don’t see littering as problematic. My family still probably litters and thinks nothing of it. When I moved to DC and started spending time around different types of folks, I realized littering wasn’t good behavior. But before that, I honestly just never realized it before because I had never internalized that it wasn’t okay.

  • austindc

    Woah, perfect timing! I was struggling with this just this week! There’s two women who work in a building in Georgetown, and I politely confronted them once to ask them not to throw their cigarettes into the canal. I figured there seem to be a lot of birds that are eating down there, plus it drains right into the river, so it seems like a bad spot for cigarettes. They looked embarrassed and went inside their building. Figured the problem was solved. But then I caught them doing it again just a few days later. So it doesn’t seem like confrontation (polite or otherwise) does anything to change people who behave this way.

    Anyway, it gets me kind of riled, so I just stopped walking past that building.

    • +1.

      This is why saying something is minding their business because you are trying to change them. If they wanted to change their behavior, they would already be throwing their garbage in the trashcan.

      • austindc

        +1 for giving me my first +1 ever. You sir or madam have made my day.

      • -1

        That sounds so adolescent: “Mind your own business! You’re not the boss of me!”

        Illegal behavior is everyone’s business, not the criminal’s business. I trust that we’re all in favor of changing illegal behavior.

        • austindc

          Oh. Now I’m back to 0.

        • You have to be caught in the act of littering to be found guilty of doing something illegal. Even if you see it happening and you want to “report” it, it would become an issue of he said-she said or she said- he said or he said-he said or she said-she-said. The point is that it is hard to prove that someone littered unless a cop sees the act him or herself.

          • DPW mails fines for improperly disposed waste all the time, especially if it is large (mattresses) and/or has identifying information attached or within. Unfortunately they seem to assign and mail these fines to the wrong, innocent parties far too often.

          • Boybert:

            DPW mails fines for improperly disposed of trash (a mattress), but that is because it can be associated with an address (whether or not it’s the right address is another matter). If you look on these boards, people are frustrated by the litter in their neighborhoods but I can remember once in recent PoPville history where someone was actually ticketed for littering because a cop caught the perp in the act.

        • Anonymous 3:32:

          If you are responding to my post, why are you “quoting” this when I didn’t even say it.

          “Mind your own business! You’re not the boss of me!” To whom are you responding?

          • Anonymous 3:32 was using quotation marks to describe the attitude of people who think that other people telling them not to litter constitutes other people “getting in their business.”

        • +1 to Anonymous 3:32!

  • I’d like to know what to say to (a**hole) smokers who throw their butts on the ground, especially if there isn’t a smokers pole around. Any ideas?

    • What do I say to people who utilize cars and SUVs, yet have no passengers?

      I litterally stand on MD on my way to work, wanting to jaywalk, and see hundreds of cars go by with only a single driver. It hould be $10 a trip to do this in every American city.

  • There should be a public service campaign to make it shameful to litter. It wouldn’t work right off the bat, but probably would over time. Remember, it was considered fine for people throw garbage out their windows up until about the 70’s, I think, when Smokey, Woodsy and the crying Indian made an appearance.

    • +1

      I also agree with that the tactful responses to littering that have been mentioned here — if embraced more widely — would deter a lot of littering. It simply doesn’t occur to most people who litter that they are affecting others. A respectful confrontation can change that.

    • Emmaleigh504

      Yep. Need to bring back “Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute” and some of more modern cousins.

  • I personally love it when people leave drink glasses or an empty bottle of beer in my lawn… like how arrogant and irresponsible can you be?

    a) walking around with an open container
    b) leaving glass out in someone’s lawn. glad I don’t have kids.
    c) littering (I hate litterers)

    /on a side note I saw two obese clowns scarfing down McDonalds and then throwing it into the sewer. People who do this deserve do be dropped in the Atlantic.

    Flora and Fauna > most humans I’ve encountered.

  • I would never in a million years confront the animals who litter on my front lawn every other weekend or so. Much easier to just pick it up while gardening and move on.

  • On a semi-related note, I have noticed that trash cans in my neighborhood tend to be sparse. The sidewalk in front of my house is always littered by fast food containers, plastic bottles, and other miscellaneous pieces of garbage. I pick up what I can, but it’s excessive. And I don’t think I have actually ever caught someone in the act of littering! I’ve heard about some blocks organizing collections from residents on their street to pay someone to pick up litter. Does anyone have recommendations for people who offer this service (maybe on a weekly or b-weekly basis) and/or other suggestions to reduce an on-going litter problem on your block?

    • the other thing is, it could be someone coming along and rummaging through the garbage cans looking for some food or anything else, and pulling stuff out and throwing it on the ground. so perhaps the garbage can was used initially but someone came along and pulled crap out of it looking for something to eat.

  • Just this afternoon, I was walking behind a woman who was depositing several things in a trash can. A wadded up napkin didn’t make it in, which she noticed, and tried to kick underneath a plant before walking away.

    I said, a little too loudly, “HERE LET ME GET THAT FOR YOU” and picked it up and tossed it in the trash myself. She got flustered and started sputtering excuses as if she fully intended to pick it up herself. I just walked past her without responding.

    • OH! How AWESOME! You da man!!!

    • You read my mind! THAT’S exactly what the 14th & W Street victim, who got beat-up last week, should’ve said to the “beer can” man, “Here, let me get that for you. I’ll just take it inside and throw it away.” The “beer can” man would’ve likely picked-up the can and handed it over. True, this requires a bit of humility because one has to speak respectfully even when annoyed, AND handle someone else’s trash. But, this response sets the right example/tone in two ways: 1.) It allows for proactively combating litter; 2.) It models respect of neighbor. In the words of Gandhi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

  • you: “excuse me, could I get your address?”
    litterer: “why”
    you: “because I want to throw trash in your yard to return the favor”

  • just last night, i saw three teenage girls and one was breaking her sunglasses into pieces and dropping the pieces on the sidewalk. i just said “hi, can you not litter please? do you mind picking up your trash? thanks” and stared at them. she grudgingly picked up some of her litter and they continued to look back at me (while i stared) as they walked away. i take pride in my neighborhood and don’t feel afraid to do so…i understand some people are crazy, but you just have to use your judgment.

    • Bravo.

      Coming up with a civil comment requires only a tiny imagination.

      Saying it takes only a tiny amount of courage.

      Everyone doing this means far less littering.

    • Except that what one person thinks is civil, another person could regard as a slight — especially depending on the tone.

      • A civil comment, in a civil tone, requires only a little courage. It’s one of the many tiny risks that — when taken by most of the people in a community — make the act less risky and the community a better place to live.

  • Where do you people live?! No one throws trash on my street. Except for my neighbor two doors down that insists on leaving empty Gatorade bottles, Arizona ice tea cans, slim Jim wrappers and the occasional menthol cigarettes empty box on the street as she leaves her car after work. I pick up every morning.
    Why can’t I move to Cleveland Park?!?!

  • Unless I’m missing something (i.e. the use of the subtext of the 14th and W incident – ‘littering’ – as an impetus to have a discussion about how to confront a litterer) I would argue that the W ST incident had nothing to with litter and everything to do with ‘some white boy gettin’ smart with me’…. I support having the discussion and even agree with one or two of the remedies. The problem is that the logic used by many of the posters is only applicable when the discussion/confrontation is being directed at the average, rational person. I can’t prove it but I suspect that the assailant in the 14th and W incident is your garden variety illogical individual – i.e. not prone to conventional wisdom/reason – living on the margins of society who *took offense* (yes, took offense) to a white man telling him what to do. The victim could have just as easily said ‘please do not sit in the doorway to my home’ or ‘this area is for resident’s of this building only’ or ‘are you here to visit someone who lives here?’ and the reaction from that very angry individual would have been exactly the same. To construct the best blend of the intended topic and the incident used as an impetus perhaps the OP should have queried “What are effective responses to a litterer WHO MIGHT POSSIBLY BE INSANE?” ….Or, at least a very mean and violent drunk?

    • You nailed it on the head. The naivety of the posters on PoP is astounding. They really don’t understand that some people are just crazy, and lecturing them is a horrible idea.

      Imagine growing up in a culture where everyone is constantly testing how hard you are to see if you can be easily victimized. Many of these people have adapted to challenge anyone who is doing anything that can be considered a slight or sign of disrespect.

      Fast forward 30 years, you’ve been in countless fights, probably in and out of jail a couple of times, and some smart ass white boy tells you to pick up your trash. You beat his ass because that is how you’ve learned to survive your whole life.

      Think of who that person could be: A drug-dealer taking a break, somebody who likes to rob and fight people for fun, an ex-con with an extensive criminal record.

      • These are exactly the people who need to be called out. A lifetime of zero-responsibility serves them least of all. That’s the problem. We’re all such good, polite liberals we let miscreants get away with their misbehavior and we validate it by saying nothing.

        Yelling “Pick up that trash, you pig” has worked for me. You can see the embarrassment in their eyes, and embarrassment can work wonders.

      • Sydney P., maybe you have an imposing physical appearance. Or maybe you’ve just been lucky. (And frankly, if you’re addressing people as “you pig” and not getting pushback, you’ve been pretty damned lucky.)

        But for most of us, it’s not worth it to call someone out if it means risking injury.

      • Assuming that every person who litters might beat my head in is completely unrealistic and not the way I will live my life. The vast majority of litterers are not dangerous at all, and will respond favorably to respectful comments, especially if everyone is making them when they litter.

  • A guy walking in front of me threw an empty can on the ground. I picked it up, caught up with him, and said, “I think you dropped this.” He took it back from me, but probably threw it back on the ground after I was out of sight. Honestly, I was surprised he didn’t cuss me out or pop me in the nose.

  • Yeah I was sitting on the 52 bus today by the back door and soon as it opened the guy next to me just through his trash out the door. I said something to him about it and he said he doesn’t care and he would do it again. Littering is illegal, but whens the last time you saw someone get a ticket for it.

  • I’ve always thought that requiring schoolkids (as a community service thing) to do street clean-ups would teach them early that SOMEONE eventually has to clean up litter, and the only way to not have to pick it up off the streets later is to prevent it being there to begin with. Teach them early to take pride in what their neighborhood looks like! And wgile we’re at it, use them to shame adults into not littering (who wants an innocent-looking 8-year old asking them why they’re littering?)

  • For dog poop offenders, I used to staple index cards to coffee stir sticks and place them in the ground with words “I wouldn’t poop on your lawn, please don’t poop on mine”

  • Another story that is just like the others:

    I was sitting in my car on 14th the other day when a group of kids walked by and one of them tossed his Subway cup on the ground while glaring at me. I glared right back. Then he THREW his empty Subway bag into the air like he was throwing a penalty flag.

    He did this because he is angry. You could see the resentment in his eyes. He saw that I was disgusted and he WANTED to show me that he did not give one solitary shit. I felt bad for this kid. He has been raised in a culture that does not respect itself enough to respect its environment. These are HIS streets. He CHOOSES to trash his own environment. And that is really heartbreaking.

  • Allison

    Even as a staunch environmentalist, I say nothing, because I got smart after I moved to the big city. I don’t mess with folks anymore, especially teenagers. I prefer my skull intact.

  • I live in Columbia heights and I’ve seen litter taken to new levels in recent years. One very disturbing thing that I am seeing more and more of is people eating fast food in their car – usually parked at the curb – and then opening the door and leaving all the remains on the curb – bags, wrappers, unfinished food, globs of ketchup, etc. It really disturbs me.

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